If you’ve spent your coronavirus shut-in time waiting to get in a good sweaty workout followed by a massage, a hair cut, a tattoo, and a friendly game of bowling, get yourself to Georgia on Friday. Gov. Brian Kemp is allowing gyms, barber shops, massage parlors, tattoo parlors, and bowling alleys to reopen as long as they follow social distancing guidelines. (How do you keep distance while giving or getting a hair cut, massage, or tattoo?) On Monday, April 27, restaurants and theaters can reopen.
Georgia currently ranks 42nd in testing per capita, which means state officials don’t really know how widespread the disease is. What we do know is that the state had its highest death toll from the virus on Monday, along with 452 new confirmed cases. At this point, 23% of tests conducted in Georgia have been positive. These are not the numbers that say: “This thing is over, let’s reopen the businesses and get celebratory massages.”
“By taking this measured action, we will get Georgians back to work safely without undermining the progress that we have all made in the battle against COVID-19,” Kemp said of his decision, though he acknowledged that “we’re probably going to have to see our cases continue to go up.”
When Kemp belatedly issued a shelter-in-place order at the beginning of April, he claimed it was because he had just learned of supposedly new data that the virus “is now transmitting before people see signs.” This was not new information at that point, which tells you something about Kemp’s credibility.
Kemp isn’t the only Republican governor moving toward reopening businesses. “The vast majority of businesses in 89 counties” in Tennessee are slated to reopen on May 1, as are Ohio businesses. South Carolina beaches and retail stores are already reopening. Texas, too, is relaxing its restrictions despite a dire lack of testing in the state’s large rural areas.
Update: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says Kemp didn't talk to her or other key mayors before making this decision.